Friday, Jun. 15, 2012
Nearly half of city kids are obese, study says
By Thaddeus Miller / firstname.lastname@example.org
According to a study released this month, 44.5 percent of children in Los Banos are obese or overweight.
The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and California Center for Public Health Advocacy's findings rank Los Banos 52nd highest out of 250 cities in California, and second highest in Merced County.
"These numbers are unacceptable, especially for a preventable disease," said Claudia Corchado, the program manager for Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program, or CCROPP.
The ranking is based on state-mandated Fitnessgrams, which measure a child's height and weight to determine his or her body-mass index. The two cities with the highest and lowest rates were both in Los Angeles County.
Corchado said children continue to not get enough exercise, opting to shoot a basketball on an Xbox rather than a playground, and eat unhealthy foods, which tend to be less expensive then their healthier counterparts.
Corchado and Living Well Los Banos, a branch of the Community Resource Council, have looked into giving vendors at Friday at the Fairgrounds, a swap meet, the ability to accept CalFresh EBT cards. The idea is to give low-income families better access to fruits and vegetables.
Local schools began state-mandated changes to school lunches -- which add whole grains, fruits and vegetables and remove some fat, sodium and calories -- this year and will continue to phase them in through 2014.
Living Well member Mark Knapp said the group, which meets occasionally, is involved in a number of programs in the city to get residents physically active.
"Funding on a lot of these issues is always difficult," Knapp said.
Organizers of the Los Banos Tiger Sharks swim team supervise adult access to the Pacheco High School swimming pool; a Golden Valley Health Center employee organizes exercise walks on Saturday mornings from Henry Miller Plaza; and Living Well seeks funding to complete unfinished sidewalks to give children the option to walk or bike to school, as well as some other programs.
Susan H. Babey, lead researcher for the study, said the Fitnessgram is the only data source that provides measured height and weight guidelines for the entire state. Public schools are mandated to administer the test to fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders annually.
The results provide important information for officials at local levels who are trying to tackle the issue of obesity, she said.
Overweight and obesity are associated with serious health risks in children and adolescents, including an increased risk for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, diabetes and a variety of musculoskeletal disorders.
In related news, the CCROPP and the Merced County Office of Education plan free screenings of the HBO documentary "The Weight of the Nation," about obesity in the United States.
The screenings will be from noon to 2:30 p.m. on June 20 and 27 at the Merced County Office of Education, 632 West 13th St. in Merced. A light lunch will be provided.
To RSVP for the documentary screening, call Maria at (209) 381-6600, ext. 4601.
Merced Sun-Star reporter Yesenia Amaro contributed to this story.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at email@example.com.